Cities don't have a monopoly on creativity
“Artists can be both lateral thinkers and very resourceful people, so we’re talking about projects that don’t necessarily require a huge amount of public funding,” he says.
“A recession can be good for art, in that there can be access to unused work spaces that might not otherwise become available, but there is also a problem when there is a mindset that regards arts and culture as a luxury,” he says. “If you have this attitude in somewhere like Galway there is nothing to sustain the tourism that has developed.”
It’s an argument that was made by the Western Development Commission (WDC) in a 2009 report on the creative sector in the west. Defining “creative” as everything from crafts, fashion, publishing, music, visual and performing arts to web design, gaming and animation, the WDC said that the “catalytic” effects of the sector could drive “innovation” in the regional economy with national benefits.
NUIG economic geographer Dr Pat Collins, who worked on the WDC report and also spoke at the NUIG workshop, is co-ordinating a new “creative edge” project which involves universities, industry bodies and development agencies on the island of Ireland, as well as Finland and Sweden. Its brief is to identify the current breadth and future scope of the creative economy in peripheral regions.
The EU-funded project, due to be initiated during the Galway Arts Festival, notes that “cultural and creative industries” represent “one of Europe’s most dynamic sectors”, contributing around
2.6 per cent to the EU GDP and employing around five million people across the European community . . . with potential for much more.”
ONE ARTIST’S RESPONSE
“What’s the most annoying thing about living here, and what would you change?”
When artist David Lisser posed this question to residents of the Pennine village of Allenheads in Northumberland, the consensus was “midges”. And so created the “midge burger”, full of protein and ready to eat at his stall in the village summer fair.
“David had identified a concern about food, as the village is remote and had been cut off for three weeks during a previous winter,” Newcastle University’s David Butler explained. Fear about lack of supplies and the plethora of midges seemed like an interesting contrast, given the protein benefits of insects. He created a show featuring a fictional futuristic nomadic people called the Midgecatchers who travelled to Allenheads every summer.
As Butler notes, artists don’t have to confine their medium to canvas or paints when there is also rich material in food.
Lisser’s location in Allenheads was also central to the success of the idea, and a prime example of Butler’s thesis that “the further from the centre, as in London, the more creative one can be.”